One of the major NSW election promises of both major parties is the installation of solar panels on schools. But the question is, why don’t schools – in particular state-owned schools – already have solar installed?
My name is Kal Glanznig. I graduated from high-school last year and throughout my final year I single-handedly organised, lobbied and arranged funds for a $100,000, 100kW solar panel installation for my school in Sydney’s south.
From this experience, I have shown that any passionate student or individual can do the same for their own school.
As a regular reader of RenewEconomy, with a keen interest in the transition to renewable energy, I often wondered why my high school wasn’t powered by renewable energy. The solar PV bell curve perfectly aligns with the weekday energy demands of a school.
I approached my principal with this question, to which he suggested that a better way to reduce a school’s electricity footprint was to switch our lightbulbs to LEDs and promote energy saving measures; installing solar was too much of a convoluted and complicated process.
I respected his views, but decided to do my own research.
With the backing of my SRC and student body I contacted the NSW Department of Education’s Sustainability Unit asking how my school could get solar installed and after several back and fourths over the Summer holidays they sent through the “new streamlined process” to my principal who called me into his office on the first day back in 2018.
He was extremely positive as the only measures the school had to do to get solar installed was firstly choose the size of the installation out of a few options then arrange funding for 50% of the installation. That’s it.
The Department of Education provide the other 50% of funds and arrange all the logistics and installation. So, with my principal’s support he arranged for me to pitch to the Parents and Citizens Association (P&C) – the only source of funds for an initiative like this.
Both the school principal and I weren’t expecting any decision made on the night of the pitch, due to the sheer amount of funds that we were after ($50,000). But after my speech highlighting all the economic, social and environmental benefits, the mums and dads of my school community were urged to vote on the matter.
It was a unanimous vote, which was humbling, but not surprising, as the P&C gets its ‘investment’ back in three years, with the school saving $15,385 on energy usage each year. And there would be more money to fund new initiatives and increase the opportunities available at the school.
Once we signed off that we had the 50 per cent – $50,000 – the Department of Education did the rest; arranged the tender, chose the supplier and monitored the installation.
From the speech in late March, the whole project only took around eight months. During the school-holidays before my HSC in October the panels were installed, without disrupting any students.
This made me think: Why stop at Caringbah High?
I was approached by the organisers of the Sydney Secondary Leaders Coalition – a group of school leaders from 25 schools from all around Sydney.
I shared with them my story, my template, process and speech and they generated a generic template that any student can use to arrange the installation of solar panels.
This has since seen many other schools across Sydney follow the same process – and hopefully the movement continues to grow.
Climate change is an issue that needs to be acted upon now, and it’s refreshing to see the way young people around the world are stepping up and attempting to solve an issue disregarded for so long.